Top Travel Trips: February

There are hundreds of travel-related events and shows that take place during a given year, but we’ve simplified some of the best-known and most-popular travel trips so you can plan ahead. Each month we’ll highlight the top travel trips taking place in the following 30 days – stop by any of these events and you just might run into a Gadling blogger on your journey…

Carnival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil — Rio’s party of the year takes place Feb. 12 -16, 2010. Take part in the parades, the dancing, and the revelry that happens once a year (but provides enough memories to last a lifetime). Don’t forget to snap some photos if you go and upload them in our photo pool for possible consideration as a Photo of the Day.

Winter Olympics, Vancouver, Canada — We’ve been waiting with bated breath as the torch makes its way around the world and we’re finally nearing the opening ceremonies. The 2010 Winter Olympics starts Feb. 12 and goes through the end of the month.

LA Times Travel & Adventure Show, Los Angeles, California — Travel experts, writers, agents take over the Los Angeles Convention Center Feb. 13-14. Keynote speakers include Rick Steves and Arthur Frommer, and over 500 exhibitors will be on site to talk travel with conference-goers.

New York Times Travel Show, New York, New York — Not to be outdone by the West Coast contingent, The New York Times Travel Show takes place Feb. 26-28 at the Javits Convention Center. This year’s travel tracks include information on Africa, cruising and the Caribbean.

Three Sheets – Fourth Season

Three Sheets is a show which sends comedian Zane Lamprey all over the world to get drunk. Can someone hook me up with his agent?

Seriously, he has traveled the globe for this show to make us laugh and study the drinking habits of different cultures. It’s actually very interesting!

If you like drinking and want some cool ideas for cocktails, or if you want vacation ideas, this show will take you all kinds of great places.

Season 4 has just begun on Fine Living Network, and you won’t want to miss it. For added fun? Make it a drinking game — just drink every time Zane does. The Season 4 Preview is below, and you can catch it on FLN every weeknight at 10 pm ET/PT.

Cruises are big this year: Where to look for deals

If the trip bookings at the AAA travel show, Great Vacations Expo this past weekend are any indication of the type of travel many people are looking for, it’s cruises, cruises and more cruises. While there, I ran into Bill Purpera, editor of Home and Away magazine for the Ohio section who filled me in on the statistics when I asked him about the biggest vacation sellers on Saturday.

Given that the temperatures plummeted to well below zero on Friday, enough that Columbus schools were closed, it’s not a surprise that people have a strong hankering to head south.

Carnival Cruise Lines were the strongest seller, followed by Royal Caribbean International, with Holland America and Princess Cruises tied for third place. Along with the pull of southern waters, cruises are the hottest travel deal this year, according to the woman who was representing Royal Caribbean.

She said that people are more likely to take cruises to the Caribbean for the first time, but once they’ve been on a cruise they are hooked and head to other destinations. One cruise that a friend of a friend of mine was most excited about was Uniworld’s cruises on rivers of Europe. As she said, the idea that you don’t have to pack and unpack at each city makes for an appealing travel option. The advantage of this sort of travel is that the sticker price of a trip won’t take you by surprise if you know the price options when you sign up.

When I was telling my father about this being the year for cruises, he reminded me that if you are traveling as a single person, cruises are more expensive. Price structures are generally set up for doubles. As a person who travels alone, my dad misses out on most cruise deals, but they can be found with sleuthing.

If you’re looking for cruise deals, here are four places to look: –Some cruises are grouped according to Top 3 Cruise Deals and More Great Cruise Deals. If you want to see if a cruise is a travel option you’d enjoy before you book a ticket. You can take a virtual cruise at this site. There are useful tips about travel insurance and passports as well.–This site offers one-day sales, along with allowing you to search cruise options on a pull-down menu. If you’re interested in a shore excursion, but not a cruise, there are deals on tours. This means if you’re on a trip to Alaska, but not on a cruise you can take advantage of a shore excursion tour. –An easy to navigate site, there is a list of cruise destinations to give you ideas and a drop down menu. There are also links to pages that offer cruises based on activities and interests such as wine and food cruises; art culture and antiquities; and luxurious spas for mind, body and spirit. –As a cruise clearing house, this site is one to subscribe to if you’re looking for last minute deals. According to the site you can save up to 75% off. The links along the left side of the homepage allow you to search according to age group–there’s one for 55 and over, plus several other discount options like teacher rates, military etc. Here would be a place for browsing just to see what is available and what fits you. I receive the e-mail newsletter which summarizes deals each week.

AAA Great Vacations Expo: Andrew Zimmern, Jack Hanna and travel info galore

Last year I went to a AAA virtual travel show. Although it was very cool indeed, this weekend’s in person travel show opportunity–AAA Great Vacations Expo, is a perfect place to scout out travel options for 2009. The fact that it’s in Columbus makes it a no brainer for me. If you can swing it, come.

First off, Andrew Zimmern is going to be there on Sunday. As a Bizarre Foods fan, it will be a kick to see him in person and hear about his behind the scenes travel experiences.

On Saturday, Jack Hanna will be talking about his work with animals. I’m also interested in hearing what Amy Alipio, the Associate Editor of National Geographic Traveler’s “City Life” department has to say. She’s going to be talking about some of the world’s most interesting destinations.

Also, throughout Saturday, there are several offerings that were developed with kids in mind. In addition to Jack Hanna and his animal friends, the Ohio Wildlife Center and other organizations have kid-friendly activities. Sponge Bob is also making an appearance. Check out the event schedule for details. My son is already chomping to go. Sponge Bob to him is what Andrew Zimmern is to me.

In addition to the talks, I’m looking forward to wandering among the exhibitors. Browsing among tables laden with travel offerings is a chance to wander through possibilities.

As a person who likes to check out model homes and RVs for the voyeuristic pleasure, I imagine this weekend’s travel show will be a chance to peek into the various vacation opportunities. Should we rent a house near a beach in North Carolina–or head to a rafting vacation in West Virginia? What’s close to home? How cheap is luxury?

Although I’m not planning on an Alaskan cruise any time soon, finding out the options from someone who plans such trips is appealing. So is finding out about more adventure travel options or traveling green. Both themes are hot themes this year.

I imagine that going to this travel show will be like trying on different outfits to see which one is the best fit. Although many exhibitors are based in Ohio, several have reaches outside the state. I’m looking for those travel deals that are hard to pass up, as well as the ones I haven’t thought of before. For example, at the virtual show, I found out about a company that specializes in cruises on European rivers. Uniworld Cruises will be among the more than 100 exhibitors. As with many of the exhibitors, booking a vacation this weekend means a discount.

After the weekend, I’ll let you know what tidbits I’ve found out–and what Andrew Zimmern is like in person.

If you are planning on going, the event is at Veterans Memorial from Friday through Sunday. Vets Memorial is located on West Broad St., near COSI, the science museum–also a worthy stop. Make a weekend of it. Check out this post on 10 things there are to do in or near downtown Columbus.

Rick Steves in Iran

Rick Steves is the kind of guy who can tell you where to find the best Chianti in Tuscany. No one would label him an intrepid travel journalist… Until now. Steves, known as the host of PBS shows about traveling in Europe, recently went somewhere that few people in his line of work have gone before, Iran.

He spent 10 days traveling through the country earlier this summer, camera crew in tow. Though the show filmed during the trip will not be aired until next January (on PBS, of course), Steves related some of his Persian experiences on his blog.

He was also interviewed recently by Budget Travel Magazine. He related how he found the strict theocracy to be quite stifling, but how Iranian people were surprisingly friendly, good humored, even mischievous. “I’ve never had so much fun talking with people.”

Should Steves Iran journey inspire you to pack you bags, keep this in mind: all travelers are required to be led by a registered travel guide. Sound intimidating? It’s not really so bad, at least according to Steves. “I met a lot of Europeans using a Lonely Planet guidebook, and they technically had a guide, but he was off somewhere having tea.

Photo from Flickr user Jayne Dough